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THE GOLD TREE 



THE GOLD 
TREE 

BY 
J'C'SQUIRE 



WITH INITIALS DESIGNED 

BY AUSTIN O. SPARE & 

CUT IN WOOD BY 

W. QUICK 



LONDON 

MARTIN SECKER 
MCMXVII 










c 



ERTAIN OF THESE STUDIES 

have appeared in the "Century Magazine," 

the "Oxford and Cambridge Review," 

the "Eye Witness," the "New Witness," 

the "New Statesman," and 

" Mandragora." 



PR. 

6037 



500 COPIES 





TO 

MY MOTHER 



THE CONTENTS 

THE GOLD TREE: P. 1 

THE WALLED GARDEN : P. II 

THE MARCH OF PROGRESS : P. 19 

A SUMMER'S DAY: P. 31 
A GOOD LITTLE BOY: P. 39 

A DEAD MAN : P. 47 
THE BOOKSHOP IN DREAMS : P. 53 

DUTY: P. 61 

A TALE FOR POSTERITY: P. 69 
THE BASKET OF FLOWERS : P. 79 
BARNETT AND HARRISON : P. 85 



THE GOLD TREE 




LL the years I was there I 
had a room with Gothic 
windows, very high in the 
great old building. When 
the leaves were out there 
were no roofs or walls 
within sight, and the room 
was so high that, seated at 
my window, I was almost 
on a level with the upper- 
most large branches of a vast 
spreading elm, which stood right over against me and 
dominated all the other trees in the thickly-wooded 
gardens. When one was by the farther wall of the 
room the moving green caves and promontories of the 
great tree filled the whole space of the window ; but 
leaning on the sill one saw it framed in sky with copses 
and walks stretching away behind it. 

I spent many hours watching that tree when, as often 
happened, I was feeling too indolent for other occupations. 
In bleak winter twilights, when its extended branches 
rose in dark austerity amid the cold and wet, or toughly 
struggled with a fierce wind, I saw it a self-reliant 
Titan, a vegetable Prometheus, a dumb and vigilant spirit 
without hope and without fear as the tempests swelled 
and the menacing darkness came round. When spring 
thrust away winter, and the clustered crocuses, yellow, 
purple, and mauve, shone in the grass about its foot, faint 
delicate veils spread over its branches, veils of buds which 
presently broke forth into leaves. In summer it was a 
great palace for birds. The rooks tumbled about its pin- 

3 



nacles at earliest dawn, and then it became alive with the 
chatter of little birds, which made its bushy wall sway 
and bulge and break as they swarmed in and out. 
Usually when the edges of the western leaves shone with 
sunset red, a companionless thrush sang there fitfully and 
poignantly; and I would listen, wide-eyed and quiet, for' 
getting time. Most of all, the great elm was beautiful in 
the autumn, when it was clad in a glory of rich colour, 
the magnificence of the fulfilment that precedes death. 
But in all the autumns save the first I took little pleasure in 
it, and could not look at it without a vague aching at the 
heart. 

Nature, that first autumn, must have struck some 
happy and subtle equilibrium of sun and wind and rain. 
Perhaps never since that great tree's third progenitor was 
a sapling and the mortar was fresh on the college walls, 
had just that unheralded miracle been achieved by just 
that impalpable baknce of heat and atmospheric pressure, 
of moisture and light. I did not speculate about this ; I 
had no inclination to dissect the beautiful thing I saw. But 
every morning I woke with the marvel gently waving 
before my eyes, a tree of pure and stainless gold ; and 
every afternoon, when all around the walks and lawns 
were tranced in lucid stillness, I sat on my sill and gased 
at the transfigured multitudes of leaves. 

At first the tree's garment was thick and profuse. It 
lay, one would say, in mounded waves and beaches, still 
slightly stained with remembrances of the late summer, 
the dry dark greens and soiled dusty browns. Now and 
then leaves fell. Each day there were more of them scat' 
tered on the level grass around the roots ; but for two or 
4 



three weeks the dense masses of foliage on the branches 
appeared undiminished and unthinned. Then, with swift 
though imperceptible gradation, as October wore on, the 
change came. 

One afternoon I saw with a sudden joyous pang that 
the tree had changed into something more beautiful than 
anything I had ever seen in my life. Chinks of sky were 
everywhere visible between the twigs, and the leaves had 
all gone a uniform gold. It was not the heavy gold of 
opulent stuffs from Italian looms ; it had no tinge of 
brown or crimson. It was splendid ; but the splendour 
was pale and pure and spiritual. Here, in an immense com- 
plex pattern, were thousands of leaves of ethereal gold. 
They were all thin and smooth and perfectly shaped. 
They were all distinct ; yet they seemed, though so clear 
and finely edged, weightless and insubstantial. The 
tree was a vision of that perfection that dwells always as 
a longing in some recess of the soul, and that is scarcely 
ever realised in any material embodiment. So for seven 
days it remained. 

Nothing marred it. Every day was mild, radiant, 
exquisitely peaceful; the sky was of that clean autumnal 
blue which has something of the quality of silver, the 
shining blue that in the fall of the year broods maternally 
over all tranquil places, the remote yet consoling blue that 
is closest to the spirit of old gardens and moss-grown 
statues and fountains forgotten by man. Hour by hour I 
sat staring at the gold against the far asure; and the only 
motion visible was the gentle motion of the leaves that fell 
like great gold petals. They seemed to fall quite evenly and 
rhythmically ; one by one, without hurry, they floated 

5 



gently down through the windless air with a slow con' 
tinuous magic that made an almost intolerably wonderful 
harmony with that other magic of the motionless lovely 
colour. Twilight came over, and dimly I could see them 
falling still ; and when night closed in and the tree was a 
confused web against the starry spaces I knew that they 
still fell, evenly and rhythmically, like great petals, floating 
down to death. 

The gold leaves became sparser. The spaces of sky be' 
came wider. Each leaf was outlined yet more clearly and 
definitely against the silvery blue. Perfection was perhaps 
most perfect when the leaves on the ground far below lay 
in such heaps that those on the boughs stood out each a 
single paten of gold with a frame of blue between it and 
the next, but still a host in number. Their fragile and 
ravishing beauty breathed such tenderness that involuntary 
tears came to my eyes and my lips trembled. For this was 
the most beautiful thing in the world, and as I gased it was 
passing away. 

A night came when the wind rose and the leaves with 
no resistance were swept down in flying companies. Next 
day a few golden stragglers alone clung to the bare boughs, 
the dishevelled remnants of a great army that had gone along 
its road. The tree of spiritual gold was no more ; there 
remained a hard great tree strong to battle with the iron 
winds of winter. Beauty, supreme beauty, had died; and 
why had the heart survived it? There was a vague aching 
in my breast as with fixed and filmy eyes I gazed unseeing 
out of the window, over the forgetful paths and lawns, to a 
world man never sees, but the nature of which he sometimes 
obscurely apprehends through fragmentary symbols. 
6 



In none of the other autumns was the tree of gold to 
be beheld. The hues of the great elm's vesture were year 
by year luxuriant and gorgeous, but the pale and even and 
stainless gold did not come again. The excitement of ex- 
pectancy was always followed by the depression of dis- 
appointment; I grew to feel that what I had seen once I 
should not see again. 

But may it not be, perhaps, that when I am an old 
man, near my grave, I shall some day wander into the 
gardens below my old window, and find a second time 
the tree of gold, still and perfect, under a consoling 
autumnal sky? 



THE WALLED GARDEN 




NCE upon a time, in a coun- 
try where they spoke English, 
there lived a king. He was 
a very dull fellow with a 
countenance like the face of 
a clock, but he had an excel' 
lent cook. So good was the 
cook that they conferred 
upon him the title of Gas- 
tronomer-Royal, and gave 
him a salary equal to 2,000 
a year, reckoning, that is, not according to the nominal 
value, but to the purchasing power of the money. The 
cook, when middle-aged, had married a daughter of the 
keeper of the Great Seal ; but she unhappily was one day 
killed by that ferocious animal (it was as large as a walrus), 
when visiting her parents, and left her husband a widower 
with an only son, a small boy who spent much of his 
time wondering about vain and foolish things. He won' 
dered, for example, why he often heard of aeroplanes 
turning turtle, but never of a turtle turning aeroplane ; 
and also why it was that no one ever threw a third or a 
quarter of a brick at anyone else. But to do him justice 
these puwles did not always occupy his mind ; and some- 
times when he was straying, as the Gastronomer-Royal's 
son was allowed to do, in the gardens of the palace, he 
would think seriously of his own future. 

In the king's gardens there was one little walled gar- 
den which faced south. Entering through a door in the 
north wall you found flower-beds, full of red and yellow 
tulips, in front of you, and flat fruit trees on the walls to 

11 



right and left. And if, amid the heavy and forgetful 
scents of the flowers, you walked down the garden, over 
the close turf between the beds, you came to the south 
wall, in which was a doorway. In this doorway there 
was no door, but only a little green wooden gate, breast 
high ; and beyond the gate a flight of a few steps led down 
to a brown river, narrow, but deep and swiftly flowing. 
Smooth boulders divided the current ; and under the 
farther bank, where dense foliage grew, there were dark 
pools into which the quiet fish darted when a shadow 
frightened them. " O swift dark water, O little trails of 
foam, O wavering light on the old stones under the 
branches, you are part of me, you stream from my heart, 
and though I see you through my eyes you are always in 
my breast." So the boy would have spoken had his feel' 
ings bred thoughts that might be framed in speech. 

He did not know what his feelings were. He was not 
conscious enough of them to formulate them ; and many a 
summer's day when the bees hummed in the garden and 
swift birds in the blue sky threw fleeting shadows on the 
earth, he sat on the steps staring at the river thinking 
about what he would do when he was a man. He did not 
intend to be a cook, even although his father's influence 
might secure him the reversion of the high post he held. 
But what should he be? Should he serve his country in a 
peaceful way as a public official, rising at last, perhaps, to 
be the monarch's chief adviser? Should he become a lawyer 
and wear a wig? for he had always had the better of his 
young companions in argument, and he thought that, were 
he given fair opportunity, his vehemence and brilliance 
in court would carry all before them. Commerce he scorned, 
12 



though he would play with the idea of commanding a trad' 
ing vessel and exploring islands in remote seas; until he 
remembered that the sea always made him sick. In the end 
he returned constantly to dreams of military fame. Sir 
Richard, the Commander'in'Chief, appeared before his ima' 
gination, biasing in burnished steel and trotting down the 
line with his lips set and his eyes flashing command. There 
lay his destiny and there a life gleaming and full. 

At a suitable age he entered the army. He was en' 
thusiastic about his profession and was so fortunate as to 
go through three very sanguinary campaigns before he was 
twenty 'five, one battle alone being memorable for the fact 
that no fewer than a hundred thousand men perished on 
each side, the result being indecisive. For a daring and 
successful disobedience of orders in this action he was 
reprimanded and promoted; in the next war he was again 
promoted; in short, he became a field 'marshal at an age 
unprecedented in that country or in any other. His alert' 
ness and modesty gained him general respect, and even 
affection; and his simpk'minded concentration on his work 
made it inevitable that when the aged Commander'in'Chief 
died he should succeed to the vacant place. 

For many years he headed the armies of that country 
in the field. His hair was grilled and his face red and 
wrinkled with exposure. None of his men underwent 
more hardships than he; and when a stray shot maimed 
him so completely that further active service was impossible 
for him, all his fellow 'Citizens, in praising his magnificent 
career, shook their heads and said that he would eat his 
heart out now that he was on the shelf. 

They were perfectly right. It happened that one day 

13 



when hobbling through the gardens of the palace for, an 
honoured pensioner, he had been allotted a suite of rooms 
next the king's own apartments he came to a doorway 
in a wall and went through into a sunny garden, walled 
around and full of flowers, and having at the far end a 
little gateway with steps leading down to the river. His 
heart moving strangely within him, he limped over the 
grass, helped by his stick, and came to the gateway and 
opened the gate and sat slowly down on the steps, an old 
man who had been a boy. There in silence, as the calm 
swift river rushed by, he looked on the water and the 
stones and the overhanging boughs. They had remained 
unchanged and so had he ; but his body had grown to its 
prime and decayed. He thought of his youth, of the years 
of warfare, of swords flashing, of tumultuous shouts and 
curses, of midnight marches through torrential rains, of 
entrances into conquered cities, of triumphs given him by 
his own people. The names and faces of hundreds of men 
came back to him ; of not one of whom could he truthfully 
say that the man had understood him. All the great sue' 
cesses had stirred him inwardly as much and as little as the 
capture of a butterfly had stirred the boy. Life at one 
period had been as life at another period ; mostly tedious, 
sometimes melancholy, at moments just a little exciting ; 
no period more than another had been immune from 
disappointment, boredom and heartache, impatience at 
men's stupidity and pettiness, contempt of clamour, and 
doubts about justice and injustice. As the long scroll of 
memory unfolded he felt that he had walked all his man' 
hood among phantoms ; and he derived no pain from the 
, reflection that his friends were dead and he himself already 
14 



half'forgotten, save as a legend. For he knew, watching 
the stream, that it would have been better had he remained 
all his life in that garden with that river which did not 
change. The fountains of speech, now he would willingly 
converse with the river, were rusted and choked; why, 
when he was young, had they been sealed ? Why 
had he been compelled to go round the world to find 
himself ? 

As he emerged from the garden, hobbling through the 
door on his stick, and peering forward with sorrowful 
eyes, he was seen by a young poet, skilled in the diagnosis 
of diseases such as his. Touched with pity, and anxious 
to exercise his skill on so tragic a subject, he wrote a long 
poem in which he tried to express what he saw in the 
old man's heart. It was not a very good poem, and most 
of the stanzas were of this kind : 

Moveless we climb, we rise yet stand we still, 

New orbs of men we pierce, yet are the same ; 
Though fates like Alexander's we fulfil, 

And tread a blinding pinnacle of fame, 
Fame dwells within us ; in our hearts the chill 

Rests ; as of old unconquered is the earth ; 

Empty is speech, in deeds there is no worth 
And nothing in a name. 

In another verse the poet declared 

Evil is in the world ; a sinister scales 
Trims in the heart of each ; it never fails 
To keep its balance sure. 

And as the young man was a poet, and, consequently, 
vain about his occupation, he had some verses like this : 

15 



No man has many friends ; by Space and Time 

We are limited, and by our narrow hearts. 
In spite of cozening rune and globing rhyme 

There is no wider kingdom than is Art's. 
Man's love, unsuccoured by her arm sublime, 

May not encompass much nor speak to many ; 

Her aid, her aid alone it is that any 
Diviner power imparts. 

O you who have despised but never sung, 

Who have superbly hated, swayed and striven : 
This bitter immortality of the tongue 

Can you in last clear vision deem it heaven ? 
Even as you conquer, are they not outwrung, 

The last weak drops of the sponge of happiness ? 

Would you not rather have dwelt in idleness, 
In full oblivion even ? 

But all that, you may possibly say, sprang from the bias 
of one who was not naturally a man of action. 



16 



THE MARCH OF PROGRESS 




HRIST, as yet, was not even a 
prophecy; and the races which 
were to fight in the Trojan 
War had not reached the Medi' 
terranean. . . . 

It was the day of the Sun- 
God's festival in the capital city 
of Atlantis, and since dawn the 
crowds in the streets had grown 
steadily denser, and all the roads 
leading in from the country dis' 
tricts had been choked with carts, filled with holiday 
makers and decorated with branches and fillets of wool. 
As midday approached the multitude of men and women 
who lined the miles of the Temple Way, each clad in 
white, and wearing the yellow disk which was the sun's 
symbol hung by a chain around the neck, were pressed 
together to the point of suffocation ; and the chatter of 
their voices made a noise like that of rolling waves. The 
Sun'God himself burnt fiercely from a quivering sky, pale 
towards the zenith, but very blue over the flat roofs and 
the trees. The Way was straight and broad, and paved 
with wide, white blocks of marble; and the erect soldiers, 
spears at rest, whose motionless brass'protected bodies 
kept back the heaving masses behind, could, when they 
turned their heads, see at the far southern end of it the 
massive square buildings of the Temple, and, behind the 
Temple, the middle and upper courses of a gleaming white 
pyramid, as high as a small hill. 

On that pyramid, at the third hour after noon, the High 
Priest was to cut, with an obsidian knife, the throats of six 

19 



young men and six girls. These had been, according to 
custom, chosen from amongst the most physically perfect 
of their age in the whole Empire of Atlantis. Their flesh 
would be cut; they would bleed to death on that high altar; 
their bodies would be burnt; and the day would end. 

Three men stood on a balcony over the tall portico of 
a villa overlooking the tumult. The heavy square pillars of 
the portico, covered with bright geometrical patterns, stood 
right on the road; the other three sides of the house were 
surrounded by a large garden, full of trees. Two of the 
men were middle-aged, one tall, lean, and determined-look - 
ing, the other shorter and corpulent; but the third was a 
youth. His dark hair was tossed back from a bony face; 
his eyes were deep set and intense, and his lips broad and 
sensitive. Many of the little faces below turned up to' 
wards them, for they were well-known and of the nobility ; 
but they themselves looked out over the roaring crowds 
and the broad road that drove far to the left and right with 
eyes for no individual in the scene. All the city, except 
only the public buildings, was of one-storied houses ; trees 
were plentiful ; in the distance to the south was the mighty 
group of the Temple-buildings ; to the east the horizon was 
cut by the line of the monolith that stood in the royal 
gardens ; and in the haze of the distance straight in front of 
them, over the miles of roofs and a short interval of plain, 
they could just see a gleam or two of water and a dark 
little patch that they knew to be the assembled masts of 
hundreds of ships in the port. In the splendid light the 
panorama was opulent, settled, inspiring. It looked as though 
nothing could disturb it. The tall man grasped the parapet 
with his hands and his gaze ranged the prospect with an 
20 



energetic complacency. " Well, Colcan," he said to the 
young man, " we of Atlantis have something to be proud 
of. Civilisation can scarcely go much farther." 

Colcan the poet was leaning on his elbows, looking 
thoughtfully and with an expression that was hardly as 
happy as the occasion justified, at the unending crowds. 
He did not turn whilst he replied quietly: "Yes, Bardath, 
ours is an active race " ; and, as he resumed his reverie, his 
companion looked significantly at the stouter man, whose 
face was now wet with the heat. They were fond of their 
young friend, but they both knew that he " disapproved " 
of many things, and probably of this. For he was t . eccen^ 
trie, and unwilling to think like other men. 

Their guess was correct. Colcan the poet, his chin on 
his hands, was shuddering at the gaiety of the city. He 
thought of the powerful procession which would soon come 
into sight, and pass below and on to the end of the Way ; 
the chariots, the files of bearded priests, the King leading 
his white horse, and then, with the High Priest at their 
head, the lonely little company >f victims, with a freezing 
hopelessness in their eyes. It seemed strange to him that, 
as a boy, he had come every year with his parents and 
watched the pageant with delight. Then in what year he 
did not remember some change had happened in his brain, 
and the agony of each ensuing year's festival had left be^ 
hind it a sediment of continual unease and occasional acute 
pain. How incredible it was ! These kindly thousands, 
these sedate functionaries, this ordered civilisation with all 
its complex machinery of subsistence, of law and custom ; 
that it should all be in essence a conspiracy, the crown of 
whose achievement was this ritual of torture and murder. 

21 



One year, when the silence of the passing victims was on 
the crowd, he had heard a sudden shriek and a hubbub, 
and then there had been a surge of the crowd to his left. 
"Poor woman, her son must have been taken," whispered 
the people around him ; and then the murmurs of com' 
passion had faded away in the cheering that greeted the 
African elephants who, with the royal archers on their 
backs, cumbrously towered along at the rear of the pro* 
cession. That mother's torment was unforgettable. Prob' 
ably she was dead now, and her griefs did not matter ; but 
here was the eternal infamy going on, the same blind 
acceptance, the same consecration of unspeakably bestial 
cruelty, the same immeasurable stupidity. He was sick at 
heart as he thought of it, and, as the sound of beaten gongs 
rumbled from the distance, he rose, said he was going into 
the garden, and left his companions alone to watch the 
pageant. 

Colcan the poet descended a short stair, crossed a 
courtyard, and passed under a gateway on to a terrace of 
veined agate that overlooked the garden. No birds were 
singing ; the trees were still in the heat ; and, above the 
less aggressive clamour of the crowd, there penetrated to 
his ears the ever 'approaching fury of the Holy Gongs. 
The clanging swelled and swelled until it smote his ears 
like blows. Then it passed, and receded, and diminished 
towards its goal. Colcan shivered and felt like vomiting. 
The doomed were moving towards their end. Their 
white faces and dragging feet were nearing the temple ; 
high above them, if they had still the power to look up, 
they could now see the immense, dominating face of the 
pyramid, the converging line of the climbing steps, and, 
22 



where the summit pricked the sky, the tiny square jut 
made by the slab of the huge altar. As once more he 
saw in his mind the fainting bodies in an inescapable ma<- 
chine, the venerable priest, the binding, the incantation, 
the swift slice of the knife, the blood jetting over the 
stone, he sprang up and began walking feverishly to and 
fro with his palms pressed over his ears and his forehead 
sweating. He had sat down again when Bardath and MAI 
stepped out from the house. Suppressed excitement had 
exhausted them. They lay down on two divans, and 
Bardath called for cooling drinks and fans. He and M61 
remained for some minutes in languid silence; they re* 
freshed their eyes with the fountain and the inky green 
of the cedars, and turned occasionally to scrutinise the 
face of their companion. He sat with his chin in his hands 
and his elbows on his knees, looking into an imaginary 
distance. At last Bardath spoke : 

"I suppose, Colcan," he said, "that you are still brood' 
ing over what you will call the iniquity of human sacri' 
fice ? " 

Colcan, in a polite but agitated tone, said that he was. 
Then his anguish forced its way out. Suddenly flashing 
at Bardath, " What else do you call it ?" he cried fiercely. 
He contracted his eyes; "Oh, it's horrible," he gasped, 
" I feel unclean." 

Bardath looked at him whimsically and a little pater* 
nally. "My good Colcan," he remarked, "do not distress 
yourself so. There are worse things in the world than this. 
It is a beautiful day. Have something to drink." "Yes," 
said M61, "that's what you want." 

Colcan, with his mouth drawn and his hands trembling, 

23 



stood up and faced them. "I implore you," he said, "you 
do not know how brutal you are being and how men like 
you hold things back. I ask you, do you dare to imagine 
what these victims ttvday have gone through ?" 

" I prefer not to," said Bardath, raising his knee to ad' 
just the strap of his sandal, "at any rate it is all over now." 

"Oh no," cried the boy again, "it isn't all over. It's 
going on. The air is infected by it. We all reek of it. The 
State is built on it. It is one great edifice of murder .... 
And as for us," he went on bitterly, "we don't even 
believe it does any good. We simply let this horror go on 
and on and we don't know what it's for. We don't even 
believe in the gods. 

Mol's puffy face went red and he frowned. " Please 
don't get so excited, Colcan," he said, "I sympathise with 
you to some extent, but you need not be blasphemous." 

Their two solid figures grouped together suddenly 
seemed to Colcan to typify all the evil of the world. He 
felt a fire inside him. "Oh! " he thought, "My God! My 
God! . . . I hate you both. . . . You filthy beasts." Then 
he checked himself and, in a voice which his self 'restraint 
made tremble, said "Would you, Bardath, if you were 
making a world, put this into it?" 

Bardath was a considerate man, but he had the courage 
of his convictions. "Yes, Colcan, I should," he said. 
" Death has to come to us all some time and the mere in' 
fliction of death is nothing. Andwit is my belief that 
humanr character is such that familiarity with death and 
pain is the only thing which can keep it from softening 
into indolence and decay. The emotions of the sacrifice 
and the slight risk of exposure to it that each of us takes 
24 



in his youth, have an incalculably strengthening effect. I 
believe that the whole power of Atlantis, and ultimately 
the welfare of all mankind, is founded upon this institution 
which your hyper-sensitiveness cannot stomach." 

Fat M61 was rather sentimental. He, too, had had his 
moments of doubt, and he possessed few theories. He cleared 
his throat and, failing to look either of his friends in the 
face, said : " I don't know about that, Bardath. Suffering 
is very terrible, and I admit with Colcan that human 
sacrifice has its seamy side. All I say is that it always has 
been and always will be. So we had better get all the 
benefit out of it that we can." 

The sunset withered, the after-light waned, and the 
breeze of evening twice swished in the garden trees. In 
the royal palace the slaves were already arranging couches 
for the hundreds of guests who were expected at the 
banquet which once a year, on the day of this Solemn 
Festival, was given in honour of the foundation and pre- 
servation of the city and of the awful rites with which, 
from remotest time, the favour of the gods had been secured. 
The populace, that happy evening, also celebrated after 
their manner; and the three friends, sitting on their ter- 
race, could hear the beginnings of the night's merriment 
in the neighbouring streets ; and they knew that in count' 
less homes the lamps were being lit and the tables spread, 
and the children, allowed for once to stay up, were laugh- 
ing and chattering in expectation of the cutting of the 
ceremonial cake with a wooden model of the sacrificial 
knife. It grew dark. The three men rose. Bardath and 
M61 were going to the banquet and retired to make them- 
selves ready. 

25 



But the poet Colcan walked away out of the city into 
the fields. The noise grew fainter behind him, the stars 
brighter over his head ; and he walked until he came to a 
hill which hid the lights of the town and he was alone in 
a dark, wide place under the huge star^scattered heaven. 
His heart swelled painfully because of the horror of the 
things that had been done since morning ; and worst of 
all, perhaps, to him was not the agony of the poor victims 
who, like their murderers, accepted their fate as part of the 
eternal order of nature, but the blindness and callousness 
of those who could inflict such suffering, could calmly 
mutilate, or watch whilst others did so, the bodies of bound 
and helpless human beings. In truth he could not deny 
that his countrymen, from princes, magistrates and priests 
downwards, were not all ogres: he remembered Gorco, 
the amiable old High Priest, who had often patted his 
head and encouraged his studies when he was a boy. 
What appalling curse had been spoken over the cradle of 
the race that such frightful perversity of unconsciousness 
should afflict it ? What end could any god achieve by 
it ? Why did not heaven extirpate mankind at once and 
have done with it ? What was the use of anything whilst 
such brutality was universal and remained unquestioned ? 
Could any gods exist at all ? 

As he walked, the briskness of the exercise, the cool' 
ness of the wind, and the consoling company of the quiet 
night, calmed him ; and he fell imperceptibly into a milder 
and happier train of thought. He dreamed of a day when 
the eyes of civilised mankind should have been opened ; 
when the streets of a later Atlantis should know nothing 
of the great pyramidical altar, and a more enlightened 
26 



priesthood should look back in uncomprehending disgust 
on the sacrificial knife. It was a wild dream, and he knew 
it. Did human nature ever really change ; was there, in 
fact, any hope at all that an institution so ancient and 
hallowed as the Altar of Blood should ever be abandoned? 
He knew he was dreaming, but it comforted him to dream ; 
and deep in his mind was a conviction, based on nothing 
more than the strength of his own longing, that what 
ought to come must come. 

Centuries before Homer was born they buried Colcan. 
He had reached a great age: his songs were sung through' 
out the length and breadth of Atlantis ; the peasants sang 
them at harvest'time, and the sailors as they pulled at their 
ropes. The Government built him a large tomb by the 
sea's edge ; and as an especial tribute to his fame and solace 
to his shade they killed a young girl at the doorway of the 
grave. 

When a few more kings had reigned, the earth trembled, 
and an immense tidal wave swept over the whole continent 
of Atlantis and submerged it 



27 



A SUMMER'S DAY 




MILE northwards of that 
raucous place Scheveningen 
the dunes increase in height 
and the flat sands are bare of 
tents and almost free of people. 
Even had they not been on 
their honeymoon the pair of 
them would have fled from 
the hotels, the fruit'Stalls and 
the multitudinous parasols ; 
as it was, they sought com' 
parative solitude as a matter of course. Face downwards 
in the long grass they lay in a hollow of the sand cliff's 
edge and looked down on the sands and the sunlit sea. 
To the hazy horizon the waters stretched away as smooth 
as satin ; but a few yards from shore long low ripples came 
into being, to file placidly and evenly inwards and break 
with sleepy splash. 

Their cheeks were flushed, their eyes shone happily as 
they lay. They watched the passage of the day. The sea 
was vacant except for a brown^sailed fishing'boat that 
hung motionless for hours in the middle distance ; and long 
stains of smoke slumbered along the horizon. Far to the 
left were the thronging black specks of the populous 
bathing'place ; but here a few stray families sat on the 
sands reading or playing, and only occasionally did some 
man or child wander along and paddle in the water for a 
while. 

For the hundredth time that day he turned his head 
and, fervently pressing her hand, looked smiling into her 
eyes. A delighted crow from a small erector of sand castles 

31 



below made them both laugh happily. " Isn't it lovely ?" 
she said. "Yes," he replied, "I wish it would last for 
ever." 

There was a long silence, during which each pursued 
a pleasant train of thought. At last he spoke again: " Do 
you remember that first summer's day two years ago ; your 
old blue hat and our silly cross'purposes and then how 
happy we were when we knew." " Oh, of course I do, 
you old stupid," said she. " The day," he went on, " was 
as lovely as this. The sky was as blue. The wood was as 
quiet as the sea is now. I felt then just as I feel now, that 
nothing would ever change. Of course I know that it will 
really, but I cannot conceive our leaving each other. I feel 
as though we could not stop living or even grow old." 
" Yes," she replied, " I feel like that, too, in a way. Tm 
sure that no one ever dies unless he wants to. I think to 
desire to live is to live . . . how could we die when we 
can live like this." Lips parted, they looked at each other 
from under languid eyelids. 

They were again watching the sea shining in the late 
afternoon sun when a little shout attracted their notice. 
A big man in a cap, with his trousers rolled up to his 
knees, was wading far in and reaching out into the water 
with the handle of an umbrella. As a ripple turned, some' 
thing white flashed in the water. The man, catching it 
with his crook, began tugging at it and walking backwards. 
It looked like a small wet sheet with something heavy at 
the end of it. A little wave splashed and retired ; and with 
a last heave and a short backward run the man with the 
hook slid his catch along the wet flat sand and drew it up 
to a dry place. His form screened a part of it, but from 
32 



the dunes they could see a stiff white limb and a forlorn 
peak of wet shirt. " Good God, it is a dead body," he said, 
with a slight feeling of sickness. The girl's face paled and 
she grasped his hand more tightly as she stared down at 
the beach where the discoverer was waving his arms and 
shouting incomprehensible words. Two little children with 
bare legs came running up and stood, their spades clenched, 
gating at the sea's refuse. Then men and women on the 
nearer sands, catching sight of the motionless group, began 
to walk up. The animation of the proceedings began to 
get interesting, and all feeling of nausea left the watching 
pair. When the group had become a thick black knot it 
was obvious to people in the distance that something most 
unusual had happened, and far away little black and white 
figures hurriedly moved, men and women who broke into 
an excited run as they approached. Now bicyclists began 
to arrive ; and, as the crowd grew larger, the approaching 
streams of running people became thicker. It seemed at last 
as though the whole population of the thronged strand 
southward were heaving along towards the centre of 
curiosity. 

From above it was no longer possible to see anything 
of the corpse, and the whereabouts of its finder were only 
indicated by the poise and direction of the caps and hats 
where the crowd was thickest. There was great pressing 
and squeezing and murmuring. In a pure heaven the sun 
shone softly on a tranquil sea. The couple on the dunes 
gased down like persons who watch a cinematograph 
show. There was something very mechanical about this 
nucleus of attraction, this centripetal motion of human 
atoms, this steady accretion to a magnetic centre ; and 

33 



they were too far off to be touched humanly by distinct 
significant words. 

Far along the beach there was a stir more vigorous than 
ever. Something was rushing along. Nearer, it was seen 
to be a number of men with a vehicle. Careering fiercely, 
sweeping everybody aside, came the ambulance corps. 

They pushed through the crowd to the centre where 
their coloured headgears were prominent. For some 
minutes affairs were at a standstill. Doubtless they were 
examining the body and trying restoratives. They were 
too late, perhaps days too late. At last, commanding the 
people to fall back, they lifted the body; it shone dully 
white as it was deposited on the cart and covered over. A 
shout, a strain, and a gallop, and they were off to the town. 

It was half an hour before the crowd entirely melted 
away again, for every late comer had inquiries to make of 
those more early on the scene, and the hero of the umbrella 
had many things to say. Waving his weapon to emphasise 
points, he remained long, being one of the last to go. Thus 
he had first seen something; thus he had waded in ("the 
waves splashed over my trousers although they were well 
tucked up "); and thus he had dragged his find to the shore 
and felt ill as it lay at his feet. Finally, his energies and the 
curiosity of his auditors exhausted, he departed. 

Once more in the light of the low sun there was no 
one on the stretch of sand, now ploughed by a thousand 
feet, except two or three children, industrious with their 
spades and buckets, and a man, behind the fair, who had 
strolled along and settled down for a pipe before going 
home, unconscious of what had been happening where he 
sat. The lovers lay still without saying much. Their eyes 
34 



were fixed on the setting sun with its girdle of small pearly 
clouds above the many 'Coloured sea. They were thinking 
of an unknown man drowned. Perhaps he was a holiday- 
maker, by now identified, who on the previous day had 
walked about the sands; perhaps a sailor who had fallen 
overboard many miles away, and had been washed about 
dead for days, turning and turning in the water. In a city 
or village abroad there were people writing letters to a man 
who would not receive them. 

The sun sank, and quietly night came over. All the 
voices had drifted away, and the stars shone on the pale 
sands and the faintly- washing margin of the sea. The two 
could have lingered all night with such beauty, but they 
were hungry. They began walking back to the town. 
When they started they talked a little of what they had 
seen, and joked wanly about the automatism of the crowd; 
but the air was fresh and the stars bright, and it was rather 
fun trying to take short cuts amid the sandhills, and they 
were feeling very happy and immortal. So very soon they 
forgot all about it; for youth and good fortune will be 
served. 



35 



A GOOD LITTLE BOY 




N adolescence and early ma' 
turity a man usually allows 
his boyhood to pass out of 
remembrance. His mental 
operations are extensive and 
thrusting; he is obsessed by 
his own intellectual develop - 
ment ; he seldom glances 
backwards; he regards the 
child of the past as the mere 
larva which has evolved into 
a higher and more brilliant creature, a being with unequalled 
powers and superb sensibilities; a prince of created things. 
He can and may recall some of the child's habits and 
journeys, some of its grievances and deceptions, jealousies, 
ambitions and prides. These by an effort of memory he is 
able to recover, though they are mostly dead to him, like 
the occasions, the chance concatenations of unimportant 
events, that caused them. But he does not trouble to re' 
member the child's most intense and intimate experiences, 
the adventures not directly related with other persons, the 
joys that arose from fresh and unhabituated contact with 
nature. There comes a time when things change. After a 
man has outgrown his first enthusiasms and illusions he 
learns to reverence his own childhood. It is invested with 
a new and almost sacred interest for him. 

On the long line of solitary meditation or in the drag' 
net of miscellaneous conversation some stray reminiscence 
from early years is brought shining to the surface ; and it is 
not again thrown away. By degrees such memories accu' 
mulate until there is a coherent fabric of them, recollections 

39 



of impressions long since received by a being who fbrmu' 
lated nothing and deliberately recorded nothing. A man 
exhausts culture ; he discovers that Art is but a makeshift 
by which the sophisticated painfully struggle to recreate 
sensations that well spontaneous in the souls of the young. 
He comes to realise that the best and truest aesthete is the 
child. Memory teaches that the natural child, ignorant of 
culture which is born of comparison, analysis and classifi' 
cation, breathes in beauty as the plant its proper air ; sound 
and colour and form and the play of light fill him with 
wonder and joy, and he does not attempt or dream of 
definition or explanation. 

* * * * 

The child, very young, was given balls and skeins of 
coloured wools with which it was intended he should 
make reins for human horses. He was indifferent and 
clumsy about the manufacture, which was conducted by 
means of pins stuck into large corks with holes in them ; 
but of the colours he never tired. They were bright and 
varied. Vermilion on a skein would merge into splendid 
orange and that into a pure yellow and that into green; 
or a pale celestial blue would pass into a blue more gorgeous, 
and that into purple, which would grade and the marvel' 
lous surprise of the changes never palled into a scale of 
glorious browns. Here shape had nothing to do with his 
pleasure ; in those simple ropes of wool the dasalingly vivid 
colours were almost disembodied, like the hues of a luminous 
cloudless sunset. The child did not know what he was 
doing; but he would hold the skeins in his hands, his eyes 
very still, sighing from excess of delight. Colour was his 
divinity, which took him out of himself; contemplation of 
40 



it consumed him ; unconsciously he strove to plunge into 
the heart of the colour as the religious mystic into the bosom 
of God. Even then he knew, though he did not put his 
feelings into words, something of the grief of unattainment ; 
for, with all his straining of heart and eyes, he could never 
reach the inmost core of these heaving waves of splendour. 
His elders would remark : " Isn't he a good little boy ; he 
amuses himself so nicely." 

Sometimes he was very happy by the sea. He loved the 
rock'pools with their red and green anemones, and the 
stones in the shingle, all of which were beautiful and never 
two alike. Especially he loved those calm days when one 
can look along a level glittering sea and the sails on the 
horizon are like little clouds. But in the country he was 
always happy; he would steep himself in the scent and the 
warm shadows of barns; great rugged tree^trunks and 
smooth lawns were never lacking, and there were always 
delightful particular places where he could go by himself. 
In one place a little path took him out of sight of the 
low house to a piece of waste land covered with ragged 
clumps of bramble and thorn. On the farther side was a 
swamp. Out of the water, where ridged newts swam, 
sprang green sword 'like reeds and mottled yellow irises, 
strong flowers, sublimely fashioned, which seemed to return 
his gase. On the moist hummocks of the bank grew 
multitudes of rushes, narrow javelins each tufted with a 
brown tuft at the side. He would pluck one and strip off 
its green skin, drawing out a long soft kernel almost weight' 
less and as white as whitest snow. This he would lay 
across his hand and admire; or draw it over his cheek and 
lip for the exquisite softness of it ; and then he would 

41 



break it. There was something that moved him profoundly 
when at the smallest tension it almost melted into fragments. 
He was experiencing the poignancy and loveliness that 
cling to all that floats and to everything that is evanescent. 

In another place, where he spent a long summer, there 
was an orchard of old mossy trees, sunny and undisturbed, 
with long green grass underfoot. The orchard made a 
gentle valley for a little brook which curved peacefully 
through its entire length, here so narrow that one could 
step across it, and here broadening out into a bright shallow 
pool reflecting the clouds and the sky. Hither he would 
come day after day, no one knowing where he was, and 
lie all the afternoon, face downwards on the bank, his hands 
supporting his chin, in some spot where the sun fell through 
overhanging leaves to the cool flowing water. He would 
observe very intently the flies delicately wafting over the 
surface, and the small fish, with heads pointing upstream, 
waving gently in the current. More often, for from this 
he derived most pleasure, he watched the rivulet's bed of 
light'brown sand. Shadows would fleet across it as the 
clouds went overhead, and now and then, most perfect 
delight of all, a tiny ring of light, like a hollow star. It 
never occurred to him that this was the reflection of a 
bubble surviving from an elfin waterfall farther up ; it was 
a beautiful mystery as it sailed slowly over the peaceful 
sand under the clear water. In the evening he went to 
bed with his skin slightly burning and his eyes tired; and 
he slept dreamless. 

The grown man can seldom lose himself. He criticises ; 
he examines; he enjoys briefly. Beauty can pierce him 
suddenly, it cannot often envelop him from dawn to 
42 



light. Surrender to beauty must be involuntary to be 
complete ; purpose and self-consciousness break the bond 
and the enchantment. We, with our intellect, must needs 
separate ourselves from things; we know ourselves stand' 
ing outside them and the separation engenders chillness. 
The child alone, wise in his oblivion to facts and theories, 
can reach a calm and abiding unity with the hidden world 
of which the visible is the cloak. He walks with Beauty 
daily and has no necessity for a creed. 



43 



A DEAD MAN 




HE screaming of the gale had 
dwindled into a fitful grumbling; 
the recurrent boom and crash and 
hiss of the sleepless North Sea on the 
shingle below the cottage was sooth- 
ing by contrast with the wild 
elemental tumult that had been fill- 
ing the hours after twilight. The 
little window had ceased to rattle ; 
the fire had pulled itself together and the lamp burnt up 
comfortably. Probably the inhabitants of the fishermen's 
hovels around had all gone to bed long ago ; the knowledge 
of that, I cannot tell why, added to my feeling of seclusion. 
In an arm-chair, with my dressing-gown around me, a 
pipe in my left hand and a glass of warm liquor within 
reach of my right, I settled down to the familiar book. It 
had been my periodic, though never my continual, com- 
panion during my later schooldays and ever since. Given 
quiet and solitude, it had always the power of taking me, 
without effort or delay, into another world. 

Did I still smoke and feel the warm fire about my knees? 
In a mechanical way; but my essential self was elsewhere. 
Here was a world where shadows walked more vivid and 
grim than any mundane creature, a sunless land reeking 
with heavy vapours and populated with monstrous shapes 
of disease and misery and sin. Here there were dark caves 
where the soul was a prey to infamous insects ; gray fields 
hissing at the beat of straight pillars of unending rain; 
black lakes writhing with hideous coils; abysmal woods, 
and winds that howled desolately around the graves of 
the unhappy dead. Here, in a slimy soil, full of pits and 

47 



broken implements, lay great disjected limbs, fragments of 
terrible marble splendour, half-buried in dark festering 
ground whence sprang only rare clusters of heavy and 
venomous blooms. Old blind men and women groped by 
mouldering damp walls; miserable taverns, ill-furnished 
and lit with smoky lanterns, accommodated companies of 
the damned, ferocious and wretched, gambling at faded 
green tables or holding haggard revels with out-worn 
courtesans. Everywhere, beneath a sky as merciless as 
iron, walked the poet, his shoulders bowed, his strong head 
thrust forward in an intense and melancholy curiosity. 
His profound eyes under their weary and compassionate 
lids burned with a sombre lustre; his wide firm mouth 
with its projecting lower lip wore an expression of imperial 
sadness, of amusement without joy, tenderness without 
illusion, and pity without hope. 

Rocks, darkness, blood, poisonous fungi, the oily scales 
of gigantic snakes, rotting bodies dead and alive, lovely 
things gone purulent and a prey to armies of worms : these 
things he beheld around him, and Remorse, Gloom and 
Despair flew their sable standards on the battlements of 
his brain. Yet as he lived in this nightmare country the 
measure of its horror and infamy was the measure of the 
sweetness of terrestrial regions and forms he had seen and 
would not see again and of spiritual fountains he had 
always thirsted for and would never know. With courteous 
and precise cynicism on his lips, he thought of quiet 
virginal chambers, of waters singing under the moon, of 
terraces where taintless music sobbed into the open night, 
of pure maternal mistresses with protecting arms and vigilant 
eyes, of fields slumbering in the sunlight, of leagues of ocean 
48 



heaving under warm tremulous heavens, of hot ports, 
gorgeous and perfumed, where forests of masts sprang by 
the biasing quays, and palm-trees grew to the verge of the 
glittering blue waters. And in more purged and abstract 
mood he would dream of divine Beauty, throned in plains 
of inaccessible asure, remote from the squalor and vice of 
the actual, sublimely placid, Beauty who never smiled and 
never wept. . . . 

The lamp burned more dimly, and I closed the book. 
Chin on hands, elbows on knees, I stared into the sleepy 
fire and thought of him. He had died long before I was 
born, after complete paralysis had immured him, a living 
corpse, for many months. Nevertheless I knew each line 
of his face, each expression of his features, every subtle 
inflection of his inner voice, every pang that gnawed at 
his breast. I could not conceive that dissolution could 
touch him or that death could work a change in him; I 
felt that his spirit was eternal and constant, more durable 
and more certain than the stars and their systems. So I 
mused, as I had done from time to time for years. 

With a start and a swift fearful throbbing of the blood 
I sat up and sharply turned. Was it a step behind me? 

The flames softly lapped and the coals made pin-point 
crackles; outside in the darkness the sea still boomed and 
washed on the shingle. Everything in the corner by the 
stair was in its place; the fire shone as usual on the 
edges of chair and box and picture frame. Yet my heart 
shook and my limbs stiffened and the scalp under my hair 
tingled chill as if at the touch of supernatural fingers; for 
I knew there was something in the corner, an inaudible 
sound, an invisible cloud. 

49 



Dry-lipped I spoke. I did not hear but, as it were, felt an 
answer. It was he ; I knew it and my fear fell off me like 
a cold sheet; gently joyous I whispered his name. 

Sensible of nothing else, I looked at the place where I 
knew he stood. With effortless mental vision I saw him. 
Nothing of him had altered; the broad brow, the profound 
eyes, the firm and melancholy mouth. I had no need to 
speak again. He could read every thought, every friendly 
impulse that brought tears of glad sorrow into my eyes. 
Around his lips there hovered the wistfully cynical smile 
of one who mocked all things and himself most of all, and 
pitied all things but himself least. He had come for a friend 
through a door, unlocked, for all I know, never before or 
since. But though the smile still floated around his lips, his 
deep eyes, when he perceived my voiceless inquiry, were 
for a moment hard with unmingled suffering. It was as 
though in his formal polite way he was speaking: " I am 
who I was and where I was. I long for the things I have 
never seen and those I shall never see again. The beauty 
I find is evil and pestilent; the beauty I search for I shall 
not find. The springs of the milky way are salt to my 
palate as the rivers of the earth; and, like the apples of 
life, the golden stars have turned to ashes in my hand." 

The shadowy air in the room quivered. Solitude most 
evident poured over me. I knew he had gone away, the 
hunger for the unattainable in his heart, a lonely voyager 
faring for ever through an alien universe. 

I felt as though my body did not belong to me. With 
an arm on the mantelpiece, I kicked moodily at the fender ; 
then with an automatic laugh I prepared to go to bed. 
There was no desire of any kind left in me. 
50 



THE BOOKSHOP IN DREAMS 




HERE is an old bookshop I visit in 
my dreams. Waking I have never 
been, I think, to the town in which 
it is situated; whether I shall ever 
chance to find it I do not know. 

I always reach the place by the 
same route. I find myself in a main 
thoroughfare, sunny and pleasant, 
but fairly full of vehicles, people, and 
busy shops. With the sun on my left I walk up the bright 
side of the road for a short distance, until I come to a 
turning which leads me into a small street of retired houses 
with green shutters and green, brass'knockered doors. At 
the end of this street there is a large square or, rather, a 
crescent with a straight base, and a wooded luxuriant 
garden in the middle. The curved and farther side, along 
which I have never walked, but the middle parts of which 
can just be seen through the trees, consists of tall grey 
houses ; but if one turns to one's left along the straight side 
one passes smaller houses of only two stories, with flower' 
pots in the windows and grained brown doors. Nearly at 
the end of it is the shop, the only one in the row. Why 
it should be there I never think of asking except when I am 
awake. 

The shop is low. Curiously, I have never noticed and 
it is futile when waking to resolve to notice during the 
next dream whether there is any name above the 
window. Perhaps the old man who lives there has a 
name; I cannot say. But how well I know everything 
else about the exterior! The windows full from top to 
bottom of old books, large and small, somewhat dusty, but 

53 



by no means repellently dirty; the bench along the pave' 
ment heavy with books ; and the four tall rows of little 
shelves in and beside the doorway. All these books out' 
side detain me, for all are old though not, as a rule, 
precious. On the bench are folios and thick quartos, in 
entrancing covers of yellowing vellum tooled with gold or 
rock'like brown leather with ridges at the backs like the 
ribs of stately ships. "Not here, O Apollo, are haunts 
meet for thee"; these great galleons of print carry not 
sandal wood or peacocks or Dionysian grapes ; they are 
histories of the wars in the PayS'Bas, commentaries on 
Isaiah, or complete collections of the works of Eusebius or 
Origen. My eyes pass over them and stoop where there 
is a binding especially choice or especially ragged ; I pick 
the book up, both hands often being necessary, and glance 
over the expansive pages. Now and then I linger to admire 
some type clearer and nobler than any type of modern 
designing, or some paper which has retained its white 
beauty for three hundred years. But I do not stay long 
by the bench. 

Nothing makes any noise in my dreams. I hear no 
traffic or sounds of passers by. In interest or amusement 
I open my lips and smile; but I never hear my voice. 
The pages do not rustle when turned, and my feet are 
soundless as I move down to the shelves around the door. 
There it is that my heart flutters with joy; hundreds of 
octavos and little duodecimos fill these shelves, and every 
one is desirable, a real book, quietly and soundly covered, 
and worthy to have been written. I have never seen there 
one bearing a date as late as eighteen hundred, and their 
titk'pages, engraved with Cupids and medallions, allegorical 
54 



figures, Minervas and sprays of formal leaves, attest that 
they were printed in cities with good Latin names, 
Londinium, Lugdunum of the Batavians, Amstelaedamum, 
Lipsia, and Colonia. Here are Delphin classics bulging 
with notes written by superb pedants now gone out of 
remembrance; Jesuit manuals of instructions; handbooks 
of duelling and good manners ; translations of Sappho, 
Anacreon, Plutarch and Terence into French and Jacobean 
English; and poets of many kinds. The eighteenth'Century 
French abound Piron, Gr6court, Dorat, Gentil'Bernard, 
a debonair and ironic crew printed with a delicate dignity 
appropriate to them. I put back Quarks His Divine 
Fancies and take out Sir Richard Lovelace; I put back 
Lovelace and take out Waller in two courtly little volumes. 
I should like to possess each one that I handle; I do not 
know what curious power checks my covetousness and 
makes me restore them to their shelves. Vaguely I de' 
termine that I will have many of them, but yet I do not 
pick out and set apart the ones I want. Passing my fingers 
sensuously along the backs of an upper row, I step into 
the dark shop. 

From the outside you would not think that the shop 
inside could be so high ; but the floor of the upper story 
does not exist; the whole of the inside of the building is 
one large room. At a table in the corner behind the 
window sits the old man with his straggly grey hair, 
screwed-up eyes and heavy spectacles perched low on the 
thick warty nose that dominates his square chin and wide 
clenched slit of a mouth. He looks up from his reading as 
I enter he is holding an enormous folio with both hands, 
his thumbs sticking upwards nods slightly but firmly, and 

55 



then resumes his reading. I look all around. From the 
floor to the dark raftered roof the place is full of books; 
shelves line every wall, and the floor is so heaped that 
there is scarcely room to move the worm-eaten ladder that 
gives one access to the upper tiers. It would be impossible 
to see any of the books, except those near the door, were 
it not that a lighted candle in an old green tin candlestick 
stands ready for use on a pile of books. 

I go slowly around holding the candle aloft. The old 
man, bent over his tome, takes no notice of me ; the candle 
sends great shadows flying about, shadows that fight with 
the daylight near the door but are unchallenged in the far 
recesses. The thousands of books are of all sises from the 
hugest to the most minute; they are so wonderful that I 
could fling my arms around them, dusty as they are, a 
shelf-full at a time, and hug them in ecstasy ; yet I am 
never surprised that they are there. I cannot remember 
how often I have seen any particular book; but at one 
time or another I have reverently taken from those pillared, 
deep-brown, softly-shining files, all the great old books 
that ever were in the world vast, marvellously printed 
early Venetians with endless wood -cuts; bound illuminated 
monastic texts of Chaucer ; folios of the Elisabeth drama- 
tists ; Caxtons and Wynkyn de Wordes, a battalion of 
them suddenly come upon in some low obscure corner; 
Tudor black-letters of poets who may have owned these 
very copies; manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Italian, Old 
French, Anglo-Saxon, and Gothic. Concentrate my brain 
now as I may, I cannot recall that I ever noticed label or 
pencilling of price on any of them; yet I have always 
known to certainty that any of them was mine for a 
56 



ridiculous price, sixpence or a shilling. I stay for hours 
and find it hard to go; returning again and again to some 
dark corner where the candle brings into mysterious 
brightness the name of some famous dead man's book, 
here anchored in a secluded port, breathing a strange calm- 
ness as though somehow aware that no vicissitude could 
bring it harm. The spell is difficult to break, but at last, 
reluctantly, I resolve to pick out an armful of the finest 
books, carry them away and come back another time; for 
in a place so unfrequented, where I have never seen a 
purchaser, it would assuredly be safe to leave things a 
little while without risk of their disappearance. I turn to 
speak to the preoccupied old man ; and then I awake with 
a feeling of grief and loss, and resentful against myself for 
having delayed my purchases so long. 

Most excellent bookshop, more magnificent than all 
others, I may enter you in my dreams this very night. I 
know every pane in your windows, every beam in your 
roof, every great undisturbed heap of books on your floor, 
and all the dim shelves that climb to that cave of your 
roof. Yet I do not think that I have ever trodden the 
streets of the town where you are situated, and I do not 
hope, save in dreams, ever to cross your threshold. And 
the other day, as I was sitting before a fire doing nothing, 
a chilling fancy (probably meaningless and absurd) came 
into my head as to the name of the old man who sits in 
his corner reading, with gnarled and immobile face. 



57 



DUTY 




HEY had told William that he must 
nDt go into the coal'Cellar; for when 
he had been there he had made 
himself very filthy. Being a little boy, 
with a considerable sense of duty, 
and a dislike of breaking his pledged 
word, he did try his best to keep 
away from it. But that grimy door 
at the end of the kitchen passage had 
a strong fascination; and at last, after an irksome smoky 
fog had kept him indoors for two days, he was so bored 
with everything that he crept down the stairs, hesitated, 
glanced around, went on again, and finally, his heart 
thudding because of his sin, opened the cellar door and 
went into the gloom. 

Just inside the door the feint rays of gaslight from the 
misty passage gleamed on ridges of smooth coal; but round 
to the right the darkness was intense, a soft hollow dark' 
ness that revealed no farther wall, and was filled with a 
sea of silence. 

He felt along the uneven wall, deliberately turning his 
back on the door in order that he might not see the least 
echo of light; then, inhaling languorously the opiate scent 
of the coal, he stared into the darkness and noiselessly 
swept his left hand to and fro with his fingers grasping at 
the impalpable. The hushed companionable spaces of the 
darkness lulled and rocked him, so that he felt no desire to 
move ; forgetful of everything, he gased and gazed, breath" 
ing deeply, until pinkish stars and waves swam over his 
vision, and he felt faint. 

With a kind of silent shock his sight cleared again. 

61 



Opposite him in the black wall there was a sharp thin 
vertical line of bright yellow light. It broadened a little 
and smeared the coal at his feet with gold; it opened still 
wider and he saw, on a level as it seemed with his head, 
the bright green head of a tree, still in the sunlight. " Oh," 
he sighed excitedly, and stepped forward, his hands groping 
before him. Two stumbles, and he was at the strange 
door; his hand flung it back and he crossed the threshold 
to a pavement which slept white under the throbbing hot 
glory of a wonderful summer sky. 

He was on the terrace, smoothly-flagged, of a long and 
placid stone house. There was no door behind him, only 
a high leaded oriel window with mouldering stone lace*- 
work, the first of a line that stood along the converging 
avenue of the terrace. Looking through the panes he saw 
a long spacious hall to which all the windows belonged, 
and on the glassy floor of the room each window flung a 
broad stream of sunlight, slightly stained here and there 
with red or blue colour. 

But though the house was old and beautiful it was not 
so beautiful as the landscape that spread beyond the low 
stone balustrade of the terrace. From the fishpond at the 
parapet's foot fell away the gardens of the house, first a 
series of sweeping lawns, then tangled borders of flowers, 
then, still sloping downwards towards an encircling valley 
in the middle distance, tall trees, and trees behind them, 
and gentle multitudes of treetops. The land fell ; and then 
in a long gentle slope it rose again; there came ridge after 
ridge, softly green, meadows and clumps of trees and lonely 
poplars, remote, remote, until the most shadowy pencillings 
of land ended in a blue hazie on the verge of sight. 
62 



Shading his eyes, William for a time stared out over this 
rolling territory, watching contentedly the mild shapes of 
the woods near him, or screwing his eyes up in a strained 
endeavour to see more clearly some uncertain object far 
away. The sun shone warm on his cheek, and his hand 
was warm on the balustrade; contemplation of this equable 
scene lulled him in complete ease and satisfaction. Being 
no artist and not very capable of naming things external 
or internal, he felt a reposeful elation without knowing or 
even asking why ; and it was natural to him not to search 
for the date of the house or speculate as to the titles of the 
curious and superb blooms that crowded the flower-beds 
below. And so fine was the day, so exhilarating the air, 
that, although he was normally possessed of a great craving 
to explore empty and unknown rooms, he felt no impulse 
to look for an entrance into the house. 

At the far end of the terrace there was a shrill cry and 
a flap of wings. A moulting peacock, one or two long 
feathers protruding from the dun shrubbery of his trun' 
cated tail, strutted down the balustrade, jerking his shiny 
blue neck and nodding his thinned crest. William, hands 
in pockets, nonchalantly walked down to meet him ; but 
he was shy of approaches and flew up into a tree with 
dark green leaves which overhung the corner of the house. 
" Oh, you needn't if you don't want to," said William, 
and he turned down the broad reach of steps that led to 
the first lawn. 

It was very pleasant to have no one near; to be master 
of one's surroundings and to walk where one liked; to 
jump or lie down ; to handle anything one liked : but it 
was sufficient to feel this regal loneliness, and he made no 

63 



attempt to exercise its privileges to any great extent. At 
the bottom of the steps he peered for a time into the filmy 
green depths of the pond where glided the huge shapes of 
ancestral carp, grey before he was born. He sat on the 
rim, cooled his hands in the water, and picked at the 
lichens on the brickwork. Then he sauntered over the 
fresh sunlit grass down between throngs of flowers into 
the margin of the wood. A few birds combated their 
summer drowsiness with infrequent notes. He looked up 
for them and could not find them ; but through the branches 
the quivering blue sky was all burning with the sun. He 
turned and looked up at the long stone house. There it 
sat, firm on its stone bastion : its high tranquil windows 
reflecting the sun; its even battlements clearly cut against 
the blue behind them; its flanks guarded by tall seneschals 
of trees. It seemed as though this place of all places must 
be the true centre of the world; so serenely from its height 
did it look out over the world and silently command it. 

Peace, though he scarcely knew the word, entered the 
boy's heart. A red admiral fluttered into the wood's edge 
and settled near him on a fretted spray of briar. He watched 
it thoughtfully as it opened its gorgeous dark wings with 
their red bars or closed them into a single rich upright leaf. 
It flew away, upward through the branches towards the 
sky. Quietly he followed its flight; quietly he turned 
away ; slowly he walked up the slope, concerned for nothing 
but to breathe the soft air and unhurriedly gase at the scene 
around him. He looked again at the profusion of cups and 
stars and bells in the flower-beds, and the even verdure of 
the lawns; he watched for a while the slow motion of the 
great fishes in the pond, and then again he climbed to the 
64 



sweet and stately dignity of the terrace windows, and 
surveyed the wide magnificence of the country that rolled 
away with its wooded ridges to the verge of sight. As he 
stood there behind the balustrade drinking with childish 
eyes the enchanted expanse of earth, there flooded in upon 
him, though he knew not its name, one great luxurious 
rhythm that lifted him away with massive and resistless 
swell. His head grew dizzy; pinkish waves and stars swam 
before his eyes ; and out of darkness he awoke in a dismal 
coal'cellar, very damp, aching in all his limbs, and afraid of 
what would happen to him. 

Such are the pleasures, and such, unhappily, the rewards 
of sensual delights and the obliviousness of duty. 



65 



A TALE FOR POSTERITY 




HERE was a man in my day who 
fell in love. He was a young man, 
and not out of the common in genius 
or virtue. His passion was certainly 
violent in that, although it did not 
make him assume the mien and gait 
of an invalid dog, or wait behind 
door to stab a supposed rival, it 
despoiled him of sleep, which had 
hitherto been his constant possession. Lust, or, as a tact' 
ful contemporary of mine has termed it, the emphatic wish 
to be an ancestor, may have been the rock on which his 
radiant dream-castle was built; if so, he was unaware of 
it, and, after the most scrutinous analysis of his own feel- 
ings, honestly declared to himself that it was not so. It 
was some time before he spoke of what was in his heart 
to the woman with whom he was in love. He found a 
delight in her presence and in her conversation, which was 
sensible, humorous and sympathetic ; he thought she shared 
his pleasure, and he saw clearly that she was interested in 
his nature and his opinions and preferences ; but he shrank 
from opening his heart to her. This was partly owing to 
his pride, which made him unwilling to display himself to 
a woman of whom he was not sure, and who he feared 
might pity him ; it was also in part born of a fastidiousness 
which made him perceive something indecent and dis- 
courteous in suddenly thrusting another person into a 
situation which she might possibly find awkward and pos- 
sibly even painful. Consequently, though occasionally in 
her presence he could not help being silent, and though 
now and then his heart tightened and a slight swelling 

69 



came into his throat, he had not the strength to resist the 
assumption of a moodily-sorrowful air and the wish that 
something about him might convey to her the message 
that he had neither the courage nor, as he thought it, the 
ungentlemanliness to speak, and he kept his secret for months. 
Whether or not it was likely that he should find favour 
in this woman's eyes he did not, curiously enough, specu- 
late. In his own heart he was not by any means modest. 
He thought himself as we all think ourselves a person 
of vast powers, unlimited capabilities, and a sensibility 
that marked him off from the mass of men. He knew that 
he had never given material and visible proof of these 
great qualities, and he could not in reason expect, though 
he sometimes half hoped, that other people would detect 
them by intuition or from some ethereal glint in his eyes. 
Granted, as he was inclined to grant to himself, that he 
was a conglomerate of Hector, Hamlet, Sophocles and 
Lancelot, he suspected that neither in his behaviour, which 
was of wont timid and hesitating, nor in his speech, from 
which he habitually excluded both rhetoric about the con- 
stitution of the world and intimate expression of his own 
deeper feelings and most cherished ambitions, had he allowed 
his inner nature to be revealed. Sometimes it occurred to 
him that he told her nothing of his gorgeous imaginations, 
or of the powers of which, given the incentive to effort, 
he was capable in the world of action in war, in politics, 
and even in commerce. He had not, unfortunately, been 
taught music, but magnificent symphonies and orchestral 
odes were always ringing in his head ; and he had half a 
mind to learn his notes and write his compositions down. 
Of painting a similar thing was true ; pictures were done 
70 



by purblind people who could not see things either as de* 
corations or as syllables of the spirit; they had over him' 
self the sole, wretched advantage that they had been 
schooled in the manual craft of the business. He it was, 
potentially and therefore really, who wrote the poems of 
the age ; who nailed his flag to the mast, and went down 
splendidly singing; who rallied a scattered people and 
swept mis 'government from its seat; who filled a thousand 
ports with his grains and cloths and spices ; who drove 
tunnels through the loftiest and most adamantine moun' 
tain chains. But he had no desire to boast or to expose him* 
self to anybody. Persons of penetration, shrewd judges of 
character, could see things for themselves, and she was, of 
course, such a one. But in reality he did not ask himself 
whether or not she knew anything of all this. He examined 
his own feelings, but he did not examine or attempt to 
imagine hers; he merely wished mutely and very strongly 
that she did not think him a fool, and especially that she 
would not think him a fool and want to laugh when he 
told her that he loved her. 

What finally provoked him to speech was this. It was 
intolerable to think that she might at any time contract 
herself by hazard, in a moment of abstraction as it were, 
to some man for whom she did not care and whom she 
might live to detest. He had it in his power perhaps, not 
only to save himself from mental torture, but to save her 
from a desolate or miserable life. So he decided that he 
must take the irretrievable step, although the thought of 
it made him quake and shiver. 

They were outdoors one fine still evening (the moon 
was shining, but that was an accident and might not have 

71 



happened), and he said what he had meant to say on 
several previous occasions. Her face was pale and com' 
posed, and, in an unthinking pose which struck him he 
rarely took notice of such things as unusually beautiful, 
she was looking, chin on hand, out over the level country 
with its sparse trees and its strips of water silver to the 
moon. He explained himself quite suddenly in a couple 
of jerky sentences, worded casually and spoken in a tone 
of detached, almost scientific, impersonality. She did laugh, 
and she did call him a fool; but he found that there are 
divers ways of doing this. 

In the more intimate relationship of confessed lovers 
they were extremely happy. Nevertheless, he did not lose 
his judgment or his mental balance. He had no illusions 
about his lady; he quite coldly admitted to himself that she 
had certain faults, and that such-and-such other women 
excelled her in this or that respect; although, when all 
things were taken into account, she was superior to any 
woman of his acquaintance. Occasionally as time went 
on, so calculating and self-controlled was he, he asked him- 
self whether he was really in love with her any longer. 
This did not happen when he had been away from her for 
any considerable period, or when his eyes were catching 
hers in sympathy or in amusement. At such times as 
those he was certain ; but at other times he often wondered 
whether his continued fidelity was not due perhaps to 
sluggardly habit or cowardly romanticism rather than to 
any permanent strength of feeling. Were not the plashes 
and tinklings he heard in his breast but the echoes of the 
old flowing of a fountain that had ceased to flow? If they 
were, he desired to know it; for he was interested in the 
72 



truth about himself, and more especially in the truth about 
men. 

Frequently, therefore, he would put it to himself 
whether he had not fallen in love again with some other 
person. Compunctions about such inquiry he considered 
to pertain rather to the kingdom of sentimental fiction 
than to that of reality; and he had no desire to tell him' 
self any lies. He quite appreciated the social advantages 
that might attach to general lifelong monogamy, and he was 
not unsusceptible to the poetic glamour which centuries 
had cast over the idea of that condition. He even admitted 
that, under some circumstances, in this regard as in others, 
it might be desirable, it might even be an imperative duty, 
that a man should resist the gratification of his own 
inclinations. But even at that, failing the extreme case, 
he would have had for his blood, like the blood of all ot 
us, was mingled cold and warm difficulty in pursuing his 
inclinations when he had ascertained them. 

He admitted that it was conceivable that the woman 
might retain her love (for, respecting a milder affection, he 
had no doubt that it would endure for life on both sides) 
for him after he had lost his for her. A similar change might 
have taken place the other way round. But he had (so he 
told me, and I respected him for it) a theory which made 
him ready to meet such emergencies. He held that jealousy 
was the worst of crimes. He was not hypocrite enough 
to pretent to be entirely immune from it. At the time of 
his first falling in love he had felt jealousy towards some 
persons unknown, and he had never been able to stifle a 
gentle pang when his lady told him of the girlish attrac' 
tions she had felt for other men a terrible lot of fools; 

73 



that was the worst of it before he, the glowing and 
irresistible planet, had swum into her ken. Had she at 
any subsequent time left him for another, such feelings must 
again have affected him ; but (and in this he appeared 
quite sincere) he would have fought them as unreasonable 
and ungenerous, and, above all, as witnesses of a desire to 
make encroachment on the liberty of another. This 
attitude, to his thinking, should be shared, and he held 
that he was right in acting on the assumption that it was 
shared. 

And so he often asked himself whether he was not in 
love with one of his other woman friends. But (said he) 
the curious thing was that he never obtained a satisfac- 
tory answer to his question. Cynthia had straight un- 
shrinking eyes, calm hands, and a profound insight into 
life and beauty. He never tired of her presence, but he 
drew back from the thought of touching her lips or her 
hair; it would have seemed, he knew not why, a profana' 
tion. Merope he loved as a man loves a man; for Lesbia, 
a dark'flushed beauty, most candid and generous, he ex- 
perienced a physical attraction which he believed could 
only persist so long as it had no indulgence ; it was like a 
faint, shining bubble that will burst and vanish at the 
first touch. Here he saw no possibility of fulness, there of 
stability; here the spirit was unmoved, there the body 
lethargic and dumb. Yet, whenever he had to answer his 
questionings with a "no," he experienced (so he confided 
in me) doubts as to the accuracy of his answer. Had he 
not perhaps, he would muse, faced the inquiry not squarely 
but with the furtive glance of one in sick haste to escape? 
Had he not allowed his judgment to be prejudiced before- 
74 



hand by a timorous flinching from a breach with convert' 
tion, a weak tendency not to fling a rude stone into the 
tranquil stream of his companion's existence, a craven and 
constitutional aversion from conclusions which must in' 
duce decisive and irrevocable action? Thus he would 
thresh his brain, beating about in blind and bewildered 
manner like a frightened bat in a cave. Sometimes, in the 
hope of arriving at clarity of mind and a well-tempered 
resolution, he would go out into a solitary place where he 
would commune with the placid afternoon skies, sitting 
with firm -shut lips and eyes remotely fixed. The end of 
such communion was always doubt and a sigh. 

When I last met him, four or five years ago, he had 
arrived at no conclusion. One thing that, it seemed, had 
not occurred to him was that he didn't deserve his luck. 
Another was that, in the natural course of things, his 
speculations would be interrupted. I did not like to tell 
him: and, even if I had done so, he would have been 
ready with an answer. 

And if, my dear descendants, it is your open boast, or 
even your secret pride, that you have attained a muddled 
complexity of feeling and hesitancy of belief not previously 
known, you are making a boast or nursing a pride which 
is much older than yourselves, and much older than 
myself. 



75 



THE BASKET OF FLOWERS 




T was a basket. Where 
had it come from? 

The basket lay upon its 
side on the sunny ground, 
[t was one of those old- 
fashioned very shallow 
baskets, with a small bot' 
torn, and sides opening out 
widely like the petals of a 
^reat gaping flower. It was 
straw -coloured and so 
delicately made as to seem almost weightless ; and it had a 
long hoop of a handle that was decorated with small bows 
of dainty pink and light-blue silk ribbon. It had been 
placed there very carefully with its load of pink roses and 
blue periwinkles that flowed over the wide rim; and for 
some reason, either of ceremony or of taste, it had been 
made the centre of a design of complete symmetry. Just 
below it on the turf lay crossed a rake and a shepherdess's 
crook. Upwards from it there curved two crescent ropes 
of roses that were tied at their junction with a silken true- 
lovers' knot; from each side extremity curling horns of 
roses fell along the turf; and down over the middle of the 
basket's side fell a light string of intertwined periwinkles. 
The effect of the whole arrangement was ravishing. 
Basket, flowers, and ground, beautiful in their colours, 
seemed nevertheless all to have been steeped in some rare 
pale common medium that gave them a more than ordinary 
harmony. The art of the arrangement was artless; the 
exactitude so perfect as to seem almost casual; the basket, 
the flowers, and the ribbons might almost have fallen by 

79 



some miraculous spontaneity into their places; and had 
the wind moved one petal of one flower or straightened 
the ribbons of a single knot it would have shattered the 
fragile beauty of the whole design. 

But how did they get there? Whence, in a world 
gone harsh, had come these appurtenances of a day passed 
long ago, or a day, perhaps, that had never been at all? 
This basket; these mounded and interwoven flowers; this 
crook for the meekest of be'ribboned sheep; this slender 
rake, made to draw nothing more substantial than dead 
flowers or fallen leaves? What Perdita had strayed here 
from what remote pastures? and whither had she gone? 

For the flowers were fresh. There had been no one in 
sight when my eyes first caught that meadow. After my 
first happy ecstasy at coming upon so beautiful a thing, I 
could not help scanning under a shading hand all the fields 
around for some glimpse of a retreating muslin gown. But 
the silence was intense, the solitude complete; and, though 
I fancied I saw beside the basket the feint print of a small 
shoe, it was uncertain. 

I stood and gased at the basket of flowers, a slight mist 
over my eyes ; and I let my mind wander as it liked. A 
flash as of lightning shimmered before me; when my eyes 
cleared I saw, not one maiden, but two young girls in thin 
white dresses come running towards me over the grass 
with laughter like tinkling bells. One came in front with 
a basket swung upon her arm and a great heap of flowers 
held lightly to her breast and trailing over her gown; and 
the other, following close, clasped in her bare brown arms 
a little rake and a crook. They stopped, never seeing me, 
near the place where I stood, laid their burdens upon the 
80 



ground, sat down, laughing in each other's eyes, and 
stopped for breath. 

They were slim and of equal height. But one had black 
hair and eyes, and a skin, naturally pale, burnt evenly 
brown by the sun; and the other had hair glinting light 
brown and large grey eyes, and cheeks the ruddiness of 
which glowed softly through her tan. "Oh, I am almost 
tired," said the dark one. " Come along, let's arrange it," 
replied the other, kneeling up ; and, taking the basket from 
her arm, she held it in front of her knees. The other, 
suddenly recovering her energy, sprang up and knelt in 
front of her and poured a mass of roses into the basket. 
"Where shall it go?" she asked. "Just here," said the fair 
one, pointing to a plateau of grass at my feet, " this is a 
pretty place for it." So they carried their loads over, laid 
the basket of flowers on the ground, and with delicate 
flutterings of their fingers drew out small streamers of peri' 
winkle tendrils with their beautiful little green leaves and 
squared blue flowers. Then they began twining roses into 
chains with ribbons from their dresses as binding. And 
as they worked they chattered and sang little fragments of 
songs. "Aren't they beautiful?" ; ' Yes, one might think 
they had been picked to'day." "Isn't it rather a joke? 
Somebody will find it; if only he knew when they were 
really picked wouldn't it give him a surprise?" 

They began to hurry as they gave the final twines to 
the girdling ropes. "We must make haste," said the girl 
with the black hair. "Finished now, I think," said the 
other, with a laugh of pleasure. " Whatever on earth made 
us come here and do this?" asked the dark one, looking 
up and knitting her brows with comical charm. "Good' 

81 



ness knows! but weVe done it now." "Yes," and the 
other stood up and put her hands on her hips, "come 
along; we must get back at once or some fool will see us." 

They stood there a moment with hands on each other's 
slender strong shoulders, and surveyed their work. "Come 
along," said the dark one. "Let's run!" 

They turned, and with the swiftness and grace of 
young does fled over the meadows until their wavering 
garments disappeared behind the nearest clump of trees. 

Unable to move, I stared after them. The atmosphere 
in front of me began to spin and revolve and turn inside 
out. And, alas ! there were no trees and no meadows ; but 
only a basket of flowers on the wall'paper in a bedroom 
in a Manchester hotel. 



8Z 



BARNETT AND HARRISON 




HE other two men having gone, 
Barnett and Harrison moved their 
armchairs close up to the fire, one 
on each side. The only electric light 
burning was behind them, shining 
faintly in the gloom half' way up 
towards the library's lofty ceiling, 
and red reflections from the fire 
dabbled the men's collars and shirt' 
fronts. Barnett finished his cigar and dropped it into the 
grate. He did not light another, but with one hand in 
his pocket, the other holding his whisky on the arm of his 
chair, and his feet stretched out before him, stared into the 
fire. 

His thoughts were clearly wandering, and rather 
gloomily. There was an almost sulky look about his 
puffy but strong and not unhandsome face. Resentment 
against something unseen tightened the muscles around 
his eyes, and now and then his wide hard mouth wavered, 
as it were, into a slight sneer. There was always some' 
thing impressive about his reserve, and in this mood there 
was a heightened fascination about him. The younger 
man, whose features wore a candour common amongst 
youths who have just passed through an English University, 
watched his face steadily. 

After several minutes Barnett frowned, jerked his head 
back impatiently, and twisted in his chair. Young Harrison, 
aware of a sudden constraint, thought it time to break the 
silence ; for he had not known his companion long. " You 
were talking," he said, " of Germany. Have you ever 
lived in Germany." 

85 



"Yes," replied Barnett, tapping the fender with his 
slipper, " I lived there for a year." 

"Where? Berlin?" 

"Oh, yes; Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Heidelberg, and 
so on." 

Silence again fell. The clock ticked and the fire rippled. 
Harrison essayed again. " You know Russia at all? " he 
asked. 

" Yes, I know Russia pretty well." 

"St. Petersburg?" 

"Yes, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Kieff, Nov' 
gorod." 

A new respect came over the young man's eyes. He 
wondered who this fellow was ; why he should have 
wandered like this from place to place; and what kind of 
sins and follies he had committed. Had he some picturesque 
history; was he well'known under some other name; what 
secrets did his ugly mouth conceal; and why should he 
be here to'iiight, wearing a mask before three respectable 
Englishmen who were his guests at dinner? Examining 
the lines of his face, Harrison felt a little uneasy and even 
afraid. And so sharply did Barnett resume the conversa' 
tion that the young man started. 

" I have lived in Germany, yes," said Barnett, fixing his 
burning brown eyes on Harrison, and giving a brutal little 
laugh. " I have been in Russia ; I am familiar with every 
other country in Europe, from Lapland to Calabria and 
from Portugal to the Urals. I have lived among Turks as 
a Turk, I have canoed about the upper arms of the 
Amazon, I know all the places in India that anyone could 
ever want to see, and I have dug for gold in Australia." 
86 



The younger man, fascinated, felt a desire to see how 
far the catalogue could be extended. "Have you travelled 
in China?" he asked. 

" I have been all over the place in China," replied Bar* 
nett, "and," jerking a little nasal laugh, " I have spent for 
no particular reason a considerable time in Bokhara and 
Samarcand, which have romantic names on false pretences." 

"It must be ripping to have been all over the shop 
like that," murmured Harrison with innocent eagerness. 

A sudden flood of hot energy seemed to flow into 
Barnett. His fist beat his knee; his eyes glowed with a 
contemptuous fire and his mouth writhed like a snake's 
back. "H'm," he said harshly, "do I look as if I enjoyed 
myself? Do I look like a man who muses happily over 
packets of fragrant memories? I have covered the 
world; and I will tell you one thing: it is the same every ' 
where, sometimes filthy and always tedious. I had your 
views when I was your age. Whenever I thought of a 
place I went to it; and when you go to a place you spoil 
it. Even now sometimes I get weak and imagine I could 
find pleasure if I went back to the East Indies, where the 
skies are hot blue and the sun's biasing gold and the sea 
sleeps below shores of incredible vegetation. But if I went 
there I should be sick of it in a day." 

To Harrison's surprise the man then stood up and 
spread out his hands, and, with a fierce remote look in his 
eyes, began speaking in a high hollow voice like that of 
an actor in some dreamy play. 

"Come up," he said, "come up, my friend, into this 
high tower. The endless lake of night is around us and 
the stars that we cannot escape are over our heads. Look 

87 



out, now, where my hand sweeps round over this 
globular earth that rolls incessantly through space. Over 
there in front of us the seas and continents curve away ; 
here they lie in darkness and down there they are lit by 
the sun. Away there to my left and again to my right 
the cold waters roll away until they congeal in rough 
frozen deserts white under the moon. On the other side 
of the world the monotonous populations of men are run' 
ning in and out of their nests, and building little houses, 
and digging holes in the ground, and cooking, and making 
love, and beating animals. The light creeps on and on 
towards us, and every minute it wakes a tract of sleeping 
men and insects into activity. They rise; they are rising 
now, in Siberia and China and the Indies; and as these 
come into the light others leave it, and others, farther 
behind, put out their lamps and go to sleep in their beds. 
In this place where my finger points the people are black, 
and go naked in small clearings in the middle of tangled 
woods. In this other place they are in white robes and 
they bathe in thousands by the banks of a broad yellow 
river. Down there, look, there are bearded men with red 
shirts who walk about streets of low tin houses; and up 
there they are yellow and beardless and simmer in con- 
fused wooden cities scrawled with absurd signs. There 
they are ; they stay there ; they multiply or decrease. They 
level small hills and burn forests and make straight canals 
from river to river and put out upon the sea in boats with 
sail or smoke to cross from one coast to another. Jump 
with me like a grasshopper from spot to spot. Leap five 
thousand miles ; you can land where you like, and though 
you cannot understand their jargons, they will all say the 



same things to you. They will all have the same eyes and 
the same feet and everywhere some will be giving birth 
and some will be dying. You can see them all over this 
rounded surface, a crowd here crouching sullen under 
those thunderbolts and another there lying sweating and 
exhausted in that hot stretch of sun. I ask you, is it not 
insufferably wearisome? Select any patch and plunge into 
the middle of them; walk and talk with them and your 
questions will never be answered nor will you do any' 
thing you have never done before. And you also, your 
skin each moment grows imperceptibly more wrinkled, 
your bones stiffen and the colour fades from your hair." 
He stopped, jerked his fists, and then in a voice of com' 
mand cried : " Stand here, stand still, do not move, set your 
mouth, never close your eyelids, stare like marble, grasp 
the balcony firmly, look at the ground below and fear it 
not. If your fool of a heart aches, kill it!" 

It was a peculiar outburst; and as the man stopped, 
Harrison shivered and felt cold. His next feeling was an 
awkwardness as of one who has invaded some embarass' 
ing intimacy. He stood up, looked sheepishly at his feet, 
laughed to reestablish his self- confidence, and then whisked 
some soda into his glass and drank it off. As though he had 
only just remembered the time, he looked at the clock ; he 
affected surprise at the lateness of the hour, and said : " By 
Jove, I had no idea it was so late. I simply must be going. 
Thanks awfully." 

Barnett very courteously showed him out. 



89 



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